Centrepins and multipliers

Fixed-spool reels are appropriate for light-tackle fishing, but when using some specialized techniques and for big-game fishing centrepins and multipliers may be essential

A centrepin is a reel acting as a line reservoir with its axis at right angles to the rod. Good centrepins consist of a flanged drum, machined to very fine tolerances, which revolves freely on a precision-engineered steel axle. Many models have appeared over the years, ranging from the cheap and simple kind in Bakelite to the comparatively expensive models manufactured from stainless steel or enamelled metal. Wooden models have also been produced, but are now not so common.

The centrepin is simple in construction, and – by virtue of this – reliable, as well as being easy to operate and to maintain. Once the use of the centrepin has been mastered many anglers prefer it to the fixed-spool reel.

Fishing reel
Image via Wikipedia


The centrepin is used mainly for ‘trotting’ – allowing the river’s current to carry float-tackle smoothly downstream, allowing the bait to cover long stretches of water at one cast. It is with this method that the free-running centrepin drum is put to best advantage. To recover line quickly, the drum is given a series of taps with all four fingers in a practice called ‘batting’.

The diameter of the reel can vary, but most are between 3!/2in and 4 1/2 in. The drum’s diameter will be almost as large, and the larger the drum the more rapid will be the line recovery. Most centrepins have a line guard and optional ratchet, while some also have a drag mechanism. An exposed smooth rim, which allows finger-pressure to be applied to control the line when casting or playing a fish, is a valuable feature. Many of the older centrepin reels are now very much in demand for their fine, free action.

Although the centrepin is still used – and indeed has made a come-back in recent years – its popularity suffered greatly when the fixed-spool reel was introduced 40 years ago. This reel permits almost effortless long casting, because the drum is parallel to the rod. To achieve similar distances with a centrepin is a satisfying accomplishment. Nevertheless, the centrepin is still unrivalled in two circumstances. In water where the fishing is virtually under the rod end and there are likely to be big fish which go off at high speed, such as carp; and where the fishing is close-in.

The centrepin scores in both conditions for the same reason – the perfect control which can be exercised by the thumb on the drum of the reel. A point in favour of this method is that the alternative – using the slipping clutch of a fixed-spool reel – was not designed for use with the fine lines normally used by the matchman.

In 1977 a centrepin reel for fly fishing, made entirely of carbon fibre, made its appearance. This, the ‘Line-Shooter’, is a big reel with a wide drum and exposed rim, allowing rapid line recovery by winding or ‘batting’. It is also the lightest centrepin reel ever made, weighing only 5oz. The ratchet is optional and, by contrast with many other models, is reasonably quiet. It also incorporates an extremely sensitive drag control. Although built as a fly reel it has found favour with coarse fishermen, who use it for trotting. For this, the drag should be set so that the reel revolves with the cur-rent’s pull. For ‘laying-on’ (float fishing but with about 18in of line on the bottom, which gives a clear bite indication) or ‘stret-pegging’ (again setting the float higher than the depth of the water and casting the tackle into a groundbaited area) the setting should not allow the line to pay out too freely and so tangle.

The multiplier reel

The multiplier is essentially a reel with a small-diameter drum geared to a ratio of 3 or 4:1 so that line is retrieved rapidly by winding. Models with automatic gears are available, but are far more expensive. These have ratios of about 21/s> and 4!/2:l. As with the fixed-spool reel, there is a wide variety.

To the beginner the multiplier may appear complicated. But you should become familiar with its star-drag, brake and other parts before going fishing with it. Most multipliers are right-handed and cannot be adapted for left-handers.

The main problem with the multiplier reel is that of the line over-running and tangling into ‘bird’s nests’. To reduce the possibility of this, whether when lowering the bait over the side of a boat and down to the sea-bed or casting up to 100 yards from the shore, the thumb must rest gently on the line as it pays out. Various devices have been incorporated by manufacturers in some of their models to overcome this difficulty. These include spool tensioners, centrifugal govenors, oil ‘drag’ retarders and ‘lift’ and ‘brake’ gadgets, but bird’s nests can be avoided by the angler if he learns how to use his reel properly.

The more expensive multipliers have ball bearings set in both end-plates. Leading from one spindle is a governing mechanism, usually consisting of fibre blocks, which are thrown outwards by centrifugal force, thus acting as a brake when the bait hits the water. To stop the line from running with the weight while casting, a manual brake on the side of the reel can be employed. Another feature of superior reels is a ‘line-spreader’, which ensures the even distribution of line on recovery.

The mechanism of the freshwater multiplier is extremely delicate, and sand, dust, and, worse still, salt-water, are to be avoided at all costs. The heavier saltwater models still need to be kept clean and oiled, but they are usually rust-proof. Unlike other reels, which are fixed to the underside of the rod handle, the multiplier is used with the rod reversed and the reel uppermost.


It is essential after each outing to rinse the reel thoroughly in freshwater and, after drying it, to apply a recommended lubricant, especially if the reel is not to be used again for some time. Periodical inspection is also advisable, for sand or grit in the gears can wreak havoc and a jammed reel while playing a strong fish is an event no angler wants to experience.

The multiplier used in pike fishing will, with practice, allow baits, spinners and plugs to be cast as far as with a fixed-spool model. As a bonus, playing fish on a drum reel, which demands special skills, can be a real delight. £T-*


The angler seeking a hotspot has been likened to the burglar looking for an open window: once he has found it, there are rich pickings to be had with the greatest of ease

The expression ‘hotspot’ became an in-word with specimen-hunters in the mid-1980s and has since become more widely used. If anything, it is now too widely used, and often in the wrong context. Unfortunately, too, the hotspot era has brought with it the problem of ‘swim-jumpers’, who watch successful anglers then ‘beat them to it’. Ironically, the hotspots in those swims are often wasted by these fellows as they are not aware of the existence of them.